And the Oscar Goes To Movie Review: A moving document of a filmmaker's journey
Though the film might not give a complete picture of the multitude of problems faced by a debutant director, it gives one a small taste of a profession that many are unfamiliar with
There is a story behind every film and filmmaker. Some are interesting, some are not. The most fascinating and inspiring stories come from filmmakers who sacrifice a lot to make a film — not necessarily their first one. Some endure it all and go on to make classics, while others give up midway or sometimes lose their lives in the process. And the Oscar Goes To belongs to the uplifting variety.
It's obvious that director Salim Ahamed based this script on his own experiences while making his debut film (Adaminte Makan Abu). Tovino Thomas is Issak Ebrahim, a Kannur-native who was born listening to Mammootty's monologues from Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha, which played at the movie theatre adjacent to the hospital where his mother delivered him. The boy grows up in the film's beautifully animated opening credits, and once the film opens, he tells a tea stall owner that one day he can tell everyone that Isaak used to drink tea from his place, which according to him gave birth to many famous Malayalam filmmakers.
Director: Salim Ahamed
Cast: Tovino Thomas, Anu Sithara, Nikki Rae Hallow, Siddique
Setting this film in Kochi is only apt considering it's viewed as the Mecca for Malayalam filmmakers. It's interesting when you recall that in Adaminte Makan Abu, the protagonist dreams about going to Mecca whereas, in Oscar, Issak struggles to realise his dreams in a different 'Mecca'. Unable to find a producer for his first film, Issak decides to fund it himself. But it's not so easy for someone who does not come from riches and doesn't have a godfather in the industry. Tovino is, as usual, convincing in his depiction of Isaak's struggles without being overly theatrical.
However, there are a few instances where the film looks a bit plain and by the numbers — there is not much in the way of creativity when depicting conflict. Yes, you see Issak running around trying to do this and that but you don't quite feel the magnitude of his troubles. This is where Tovino's casting does wonders. His face tells you that the stakes are higher than what they actually appear to be even though the rest of the film makes it seem like his challenges are easily solvable. The troubles are mostly financial, like actors or technicians refusing to leave because they haven't been paid. But it would have been nice if the film explored the other, non-financial challenges faced by a first-time director.
When the challenge of completing the film is dealt with, another one pops up. Sometimes, the total cost of marketing an Indian film at the Oscars would add up to the total budget required to shoot that film. Canadian actor Nikki Rae Hallow plays the PR agent hired by Issak to promote his critically-acclaimed film. She is another beginner trying to make a name for herself. In one heated scene, she berates Issak for not paying enough for entertaining his guests. She is answerable to a lot of people and her frustration is easily understandable.
Anu Sithara excels in the role of Issak's best friend Chithra. There is a nicely done moment towards the end of the film where she and Issak realise they may have feelings for each other that they never thought they had. Also quite moving are the scenes involving Siddique's character Prince and Salim Kumar's character Moidukka. The latter is essentially playing another variation of his Adaminte Makan Abu role.
The scene that moved me the most happens in the film's latter portion when a desperately hungry Issak is unable to have his meal as an American reporter interrupts him for an interview. Some of us would usually cry in such a situation, but Tovino conveys the same feeling without going to that extreme. If that isn't the mark of a great actor, I don't know what is. Is the film worth watching? Definitely. Though it may not give you a complete picture of the multitude of problems faced by a debutant director, it gives one a small taste of a profession that many are unfamiliar with. I'm not sure all the struggles are cinema-friendly. As Salim Kumar says in the film, "Cinema is cinema, life is life."